Griffon's Ridge (Part One)
From Brilla, the party rode along the beaten path to their next destination. From what they had heard, it would be about a day's journey to Stranded Green.
As Darlynn began to sober up, the path brought them along the edge of the cliffs.
The rolling green took a steep drop into the ocean - a beautiful sight to behold, but one wrong step could lead to a painful death as the unfortunate fall would crash into the waves below.
As this thought crossed their mind, the Defenders of Avalon made sure to keep a safe distance. Still, they couldn't deny the beauty.
Idle chatter flowed as they continued down the empty road until Urik pulled tight the reigns of the horse he shared with Odarod before hopping off it.
They were about halfway to the town when he had made up his mind.
Since Soulfire's death and fixing his magic item, he had begun to question whether it was worth it to stay with the band of misfits. They were weak, and they needed him more than he needed them.
With a curt word about how he was going to leave, he turned his back on the group. Angus quickly jumped down after him and tried to persuade him to stay.
They had spent months together; they had survived life-threatening situations together. As far as Angus was concerned, they were family. Uruk brushed Angus off and continued on his way.
Angus's usual charms did not have a hold on this half-orc.
"Just know you'll always have a place with us," Angus called out after him. "You can come back whenever you want!"
Darlynn scoffed and shouted her own words of parting to Uruk.
"Don't bother coming back!" She had yet to forgive him for his past transgressions and even wondered if now would be a great moment for revenge.
After a quick conversation with herself, she decided against it and turned her back towards the half-orc. He's not worth it.
Angus and Odarod looked on as Uruk gave a final wave and slowly meandered back down the path they had come from.
As his silhouette grew smaller, Angus hopped back onto the horse he shared with Darlynn, and they all carried on to Stranded Green - another member lost.
The sun had set by the time the Defenders reached the town.
It was much larger than some other towns they had previously visited, but still, it paled in comparison to Avalon, the city they've sworn to protect.
However, this place had a beauty all its own. The emerald green that surrounded the town was not something to discount. It seemed to be a beautiful, rural town with hardworking people.
The group rode their horses down the main road as the shops and stalls around them began to close up for the night; tired they sought out a resident who might point them to an inn.
Luckily, they ran into a kind woman as she stepped out from her and her husband's store. Angus hailed her, and she informed the group that while there was an inn, its only room was taken.
However, the town was full of people who would be willing to offer them a room for the night for a silver coin or two.
"Would you happen to be one of those kind-hearted souls," Angus inquired as he slid off his and Darlynn's horse.
She glanced at her husband who gave an affirmative nod, then she smiled in response. "Of course. We might not have a spare room, but you're welcome to sleep in our barn.
There's plenty of soft hay to lay your head on in there."
"Does that work for you guys," Angus asked. Odarod nodded, while Darlynn shrugged - obviously not please, but too tired to truly protest. "We'd appreciate it," he chirped.
"How much would it cost?"
"Only one silver for all three of you." She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, a smile still resting softly on her face.
"You're, of course, welcome to store your horses in the barn as well."
Angus quickly pulled a silver from his coin purse and handed it over to the woman as her husband who had finished locking up their store came to stand behind her.
"By the way, I didn't catch your names."
"Oh, well, I'm Eric." His hands moved to tightly grasp his wife's shoulders; a look of pride sprung from his eyes. "And this here is my wife Marriam."
"It's nice to meet you! My name is Angus, and this is Odarod and Darlynn. We're adventurers."
Eric nodded as he shook the tiefling's hand. "Nice to meet you."
With introductions over, the lovely couple led the tired group to their home. Along the way, Eric and Angus discussed some of the recent happenings in town.
Eric explained how there was another group of adventurers that had come through about a month ago, although he wasn't sure if they were still around.
The group's appearance also happened to coincide with the appearance of the owlbears, and the group was comprised of a half-elf,
a halfling - although they couldn't be certain of this - and three humans. Eric had also mentioned how the town had been afraid of the owlbears that had been taking their livestock as late.
Every time the owlbears flew overhead, people would freeze, terrified that they might become its next meal.
Finally, they reached the couple's property. On it sat a small one-bedroom house and a decent-sized barn. As the group approached the barn, Mirriam left to the house.
She still had to prepare dinner for her and her husband. As she did that, Eric gave the group a quick tour of the barn.
There was one stall left for one of the Defender's horses to use while the other could use the hitching post outside.
"The weather's still been fairly warm, so the horse shouldn't have any problems," Eric explained. "Oh, and we can bring you breakfast tomorrow morning if you want.
My wife plans on making porridge. You'd only have to pay the cost of the ingredients she uses."
Angus happily took Eric up on the offer before paying the two silver Eric requested. Then Eric awkwardly left the group alone in the barn and headed back to his wife's side.
This left the group alone with a few hours to kill before they needed to head to bed.
Odarod quickly scrambled up to the barn's loft and claimed it for himself, while Darlynn found a place inside the barn to meditate.
She wanted to get a handle on the voices that had been whispering to her. Then there was Angus who was intent to continue training with his shield. He wanted to be able to defend himself.
As Angus practiced outside, he stumbled upon an orange tabby cat who had made itself comfortable on the side of the barn.
Once it realized Angus was there, staring at it, the orange tabby made a dash for the wilderness, and a flash of moonlight seemed to signal its disappearance.
At that moment, Angus couldn't tell if it was magic or simply a trick of the light as the cloudy sky parted for but a moment.
He made a mental note of the ordeal before he returned to his training.
Once satisfied, Angus returned to the barn to find Odarod fast asleep and Darlynn still meditating. He said goodnight to her before finding a warm pile of hay to sleep in.
Darlynn was the last to go to sleep, frustrated by how evasive the voices had been.
She blew out the lantern that had kept the barn lit till then and curled up in her bedroll - the voices still on the edges of her mind.